Cheong Wa Dae (The Blue House), Seoul
I booked the tour to Cheong Wa Dae out of curiousity especially since the Blue House is located right next to the east gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Both places are located right at the foot of Mount Bugaksan. I had a lot of expectation for this tour especially since it's the presidential house. I thought they'd cancel the tour especially with the impeachment of the former President Park Geun-hye.
We went to the tour information booth outside of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. We had our passports and reservation checked by the Chong Wa Dae staff. Once they gave an all-clear, we boarded the shuttle bus that would take us to the Blue House. Somehow the shuttle bus reminded me of the karaoke bus filled with ahjumma in some Korean TV dramas, especially with the colourful lights inside. You may also recognise this in Psy's "Gangnam Style" music video. ps: also not sure why everyone looked super happy in the photo x-D.
When we arrived, we had to undergo a security check. Hubby's backpack was an abyss so it was really messy and he had to take out everything one by one. Our passports were swapped with an audio guide and lanyard. We were also given a souvenir from Cheong Wa Dae and a laminated brochure with a brief explanationof the areas. We were briefed about the presidential house at the Public Information Hall and were re-informed that we could only take photos at 3 out of 6 main places that we visited.
At Nok Ji Won, the successor of the previous president would usually plant a tree to commemorate their era of reign. The oldest tree there was about 310 years old. I almost took a photo right away but was told by one of the guards to wait until the guide told us so *phew*. Every tourist will have photos of this since we could only take photos with the large tree as the background.
This was the highlight of the tour itself especially to be able to see the Blue House. We couldn't get closer to it though. I assumed the former President Park Geun-hye was under house arrest there... hahaha :-). The Blue House has 150,000 handmade ceramic blue coloured roof tiles and behind it is the Bugaksan Mountain.
The building to the right of the Blue House was dedicated to Admiral Yi Sun-sin while the one on the left was dedicated to King Sejong the Great. Both buildings are usually used for meetings.
The last building that we were shown was the State Reception House. All of the white pillars at the bottow floor were created from one single stone. This is the place where the president holds the reception to welcome international guests. Only the guests are allowed to walk in from the front door.
There was an additional tour to see Chil Gung that we joined in. Chil Gung complex consists of five shrines where each shrine was dedicated to a concubine who gave birth to a future king in the Joseon era.
I felt the Blue House tour was quite short and it was unfortunate that we could only take photos at some areas. If you have extra time in Seoul and would like to see the inside of the Presidential Complex, then I'd advise you to book the tour in advance. If you're short of time, this is one of the tours that you can remove from your itinerary.